One of my favourite views: Ben Loyal from the causeway over the Kyle of Tongue.
The word 'kyle' is used to describe a wide inlet of the sea. Ben Loyal,
with its majestic profile, is sometimes called the 'Queen of Scottish
In contrast to my usual subjects of open landscapes and simple cottages, this was quite challenging. Just fitting the whole thing onto the paper was the first problem, and then I had to get all those turrets and battlements in the right place. I started by lightly indicating the main features to get everything in the right place, but even so there was a bit of rubbing out and redrawing involved!
The painting wasn't easy either, with all the shadows and reflected lights, but by working carefully in layers I think I achieved a sense of solidity and depth.
With this kind of subject there is a danger of concentrating too much on the detail and ending up with a very accurate but rather lifeless painting. I think I managed to keep enough looseness to give the Castle a sense of a moment in time, but the viewer will be able to judge that better than me.
The castle was built in the 16th Century and was originally a tower
house, a type of fortified dwelling common in Scotland at the time.…
The ancient historical sites in Caithness tend to be overshadowed by the more famous places in Orkney, but many of them are just as interesting and important. One of them is found at the Grey Cairns of Camster, a group of 5,000 year old Neolithic Chambered Cairns.
These were used as burial places in the Stone Age, and consist of
skilfully constructed stone chambers with long, narrow entrance
passages. The surrounding area now is wet moorland and commercial
forestry, but in Neolithic times it was fertile farmland and must have
supported a large community. The cairns at Camster have been excavated
and restored, and are open to the public.
Sometimes Morven seems just to be part of a range of hills on the
horizon. At other times it can look more dramatic, and definitely a
mountain, especially when fog or cloud isolates it from its
The old farmstead of Dalemore. It must have been quite a substantial farm at one time, and the barns are still used, but the house is empty and becoming ruinous now.
The sunlight shining on the buildings had the effect of a
spotlight on a stage-set, highlighting them and subduing the background.
I could have chosen to leave the wind turbines out, but they are such a
feature of this landscape that it wouldn't have seemed right somehow.
Usually when I paint a view of Dounreay Nuclear Power Station it is from
the edge of the bay, often with a rough sea so that the crashing waves
and clouds of spray create a lot of drama. On this occasion, I was
attracted by the view as I walked down the hill from Sandside Lodge. The
landscape in the foreground made a softer atmosphere, although still
with the inevitable wildness of this stretch of coastline.
The Castle of Mey is the most northerly inhabited castle on the British mainland. It is a popular tourist attraction, and one of the landmarks on the North Coast 500 route. The castle was acquired in 1952 by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, after the death of her husband, King George VI. It was in a neglected state and likely to be abandoned, so she decided to purchase and save it from ruin. She spent many summers there for the rest of her life, and one of her pleasures was the walled garden. In this sheltered environment, with the help of her gardeners, she cultivated roses and grew vegetables, and created a lush oasis in the harsh northern climate.
I've probably said it before, but I love the area around Loch More in Caithness. There is such a feeling of open space and solitude, and little intrusion of man-made noise. It's also wind-swept and wild, but on a calm, sunny day there is nowhere better, in my opinion.
This view always stops me in my tracks as I come over the hill at
Weydale. The farmhouse stands out in silhouette against the lighter
distance, which extends over a huge area of farmland and the Flow
The view of Suilven towering over
the village of Lochinver has all the elements of a classic Sutherland
landscape: the isolated mountain peaks, the wild terrain, the small
fishing village strung out along the narrow strip of coastline.
this direction Suilven appears to be an almost perfect steep-sided
peak, often described as a "sugar loaf" shape, but in fact it is the end
of a long, narrow ridge.
Lochinver is one of several important fishing ports on the West Coast of Scotland.